Between when Ice Age was released and the release of Mercadian Masques, I had what could only be called an encyclopedic knowledge of Magic cards. They consumed my thoughts and forced out important pieces of information like Chemistry notes and family birthdays. I could tell you what any card did, what it cost, what set is was from, and quite often the artist and some semblance of the flavor text. My roommate and I used to play a version “20 Questions” on the way to PTQs, trying to figure out which card the other was thinking of.
Keeping track of all the cards released since then has been impossible for me; my brain has simply filled up with cards. Many of my coworkers are the same way. “We used to know them all,” they say, “but it's too hard now.”
The last time I played “20 Questions” was on a bus from the Magic Invitational to Pro Tour--San Diego. Jon Finkel had narrowed the card I was thinking of down to a blue 1/1 from The Dark, but Worth Wollpert falsely convinced him that Electric Eel (the card I was after) cost two mana, and the mystery card cost one. Not even the great Finkel could do it! Encyclopedic knowledge of cards seems to be a thing of the past!
To that end, I created a crossword puzzle so diabolical that only the most well versed of Magic scholars could hope to solve it. Each answer is a tournament-legal Magic card, but each clue is only a mana cost.
Given a full day, the entirety of Magic R&D working together could not solve the puzzle. The group included puzzle aficionados Mark Gottlieb and Mark Rosewater, along with well-versed Magic veterans Mike Elliott, Brian Schneider, Matt Place, and Mike Turian.
There were no tricks involved, no chicanery, just a list of mana costs and a grid. The puzzle has exactly one workable solution. The problem was that quite possibly no one on the planet had the depth of material memorized that it would take to complete it.
Now you get to try.
Of course, watching people flounder as they try to solve a puzzle is no fun at all; to channel Mark G. from yesterday, challenging is one thing, but frustratingly impossible is another. To make things a bit more fair, I have added simple one-word hints to each clue. You can view each hint as needed by clicking the hint links after the clues. Try it first without the hints, and then go back and use the hints the second time through. There's no shame in using the hints!
Of course, there is a small bit of shame in using a card database like Gatherer or Magic Online, since the puzzle could probably be solved in about ten minutes flat--even without any hints--if you can just pick the answers off the list. Granted, you may need some extra help at the end, for there are probably one or two cards in this puzzle that you may have never even heard of!
I even sweetened the pot a little. There are 17 shaded squares in the grid. Once it's filled out, you can unscramble the 17 shaded letters to get the name of a card from the upcoming Betrayers of Kamigawa set. Consider this the first official preview.
If you can figure it out, that is…
At Any Cost
All answers are tournament-legal Magic cards.
All clues are the Oracle mana costs of the cards.
The answers are the full English card names, minus spaces and punctuation.
Click on the hint links to view one-word hints for each clue.
When the grid is complete, unscramble the 17 shaded squares to reveal the name of a card from Betrayers of Kamigawa.
Can't see the grid? Click here for a printable version.
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